Mexico - Yucatan and Chiapas

Wednesday 2nd November - Tuesday 15th November 2011

Mexican JayMexico has an amazingly diverse avifauna, with over 1050 species currently recorded. Our tour takes you to most of the premium birding sites on the Yucatan Peninsula and north-east Chiapas including many famous Mayan archaeological sites surrounded by dense forests and full of many great species. We also explore various other habitats from lush tropical lowland forests, wetlands, mangroves, Caribbean beaches, coastal desert-like scrub and thorn forests, all with their own unique rich flora and fauna. The main attraction for the visiting birder are the endemics such as Mexican Jay, Ocellated Turkey, Mexican Sheartail and White-browed Wren amongst many others. We begin near Lake Coba where we have our first chance of Yucatan Poorwill and Yucatan Nightjar. Then the saltpans, estuaries and lagoons of Rio Lagartos, which is undoubtedly the finest wetland site in all Mexico. A fair amount of cultural interest will intersperse our birding at sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal before visiting the prime rainforest along the Usumacinta River for great Curassow and Mexican Antthrush.  The high mountains around San Cristobal are next with some quality and very rare birds here such as  Garnet-throated Hummingbird and the enigmatic Pink-headed Warbler. Calakmul and Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserves provide chances of Black Catbird and Grey-throated Chat before we finish up on Cozumel Island for a number of endemics including Cozumel Emerald and Cozumel Vireo. Join us on this comprehensive itinerary of the bird-rich Yucatan Peninsula and prepare to be amazed!   


  • Yucatan Woodpecker
  • Black Catbird
  • Orange Oriole         
  • Yucatan Bobwhite
  • Yucatan Parrot
  • Yucatan Jay
  • Mexican Sheartail
  • Yucatan Poorwill

  • Ocellated Turkey
  • Ridgway's Rough-winged Swallow
  • Blue Bunting
  • Yellow-headed Parrot
  • Russet-crowned Motmot
  • Great Curassow
  • Rose-throated Tanager
  • Cozumel Emerald

    Days 1 - 2     Cancun - Lake Coba  (2nd November)
    Laughing FalconFollowing our arrival in Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula we will transfer to our hotel near Lake Coba for a 2 night stay, and depending on arrival times there may be a little time in the late afternoon for an introductory birding walk. Our first full day will be spent in and around the dense forest following well-maintained paths that connect different Mayan ruins including altars, temples and the largest pyramid in the Mexican Yucatan. Here we will look for a number of special birds such as Singing Quail, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Canivet’s and White-bellied Emeralds, Yucatan Woodpecker, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Jay, Black Catbird, Rose-throated Tanager and Green-backed Sparrow. There are numerous other more widespread species present here including Thicket Tinamou, Hook-billed Kite, Laughing Falcon, Collared Forest-falcon, Plain Chachalaca, Aztec Parakeet, White-fronted Parrot, Buff-bellied and Cinnamon Hummingbirds, Ladder-backed and Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Collared Aracari, Black-headed Trogon, Grey-collared Becard, Mangrove Vireo, Grey-throated Chat, Northern Bentbill, Northern Beardless-tyrannulet, Yellow-olive and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Bright-rumped Attila, Grey-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow, Clay-coloured Robin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Greyish Saltator, White-collared Seedeater, Altamira Oriole and Yellow-billed Cacique. There is also a lake as well at the edge of the little town where we will look for Least Grebe, Limpkin, Spotted Rail and Ruddy Crake amongst others. And by staying here late we will have a good opportunity to find Yucatan Poorwill and Yucatan Nightjar, and there is also Vermiculated Screech-owl, Mottled Owl and Northern Potoo residing in the area as well.

    Day 3     Rio Lagartos - Tulum - Chichen Itza
    After a final check for any new species we will travel to Rio Lagartos, the northernmost National Park on the Yucatan peninsula which offers a great boat tour to a mangrove-fringed lagoon-estuary and salt ponds complex that is literally home to thousands of herons, egrets, ibises. Add to this spectacle a wide variety of other species including American White Pelican, Reddish Egret, Clapper Rail, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Greater Flamingos, Bare-throated Tiger-heron, Boat-billed Heron, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Common and Great Black-Hawks, White-tailed Hawk and Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture. After lunch we’ll visit a nearby saltworks which is home to Snowy and Piping Plovers, Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Black Skimmer, Gull-billed Tern, and large flocks of migrant shorebirds. Birding alongside the coastal desert-like scrub and thorn forest can also be productive with Yucatan Bobwhite, Lesser Roadrunner, Mexican Sheartail, Yucatan Woodpecker and Yucatan Wren all possible. Other possibilities include Great Horned Owl, Zenaida Dove, Red-billed and Scaled Pigeons, Yucatan Parrot, Lineated Woodpecker, Green Kingfisher, Canivet’s Emerald, Buff-bellied & Cinnamon Hummingbirds, Yucatan Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Mangrove Swallow, Yucatan, White-browed and White-bellied Wrens, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Tropical Mockingbird, Scrub Euphonia, Green and Yucatan Jays, Yellow-backed & Yellow-tailed Orioles, and lots of eastern Neotropical migrants. After a bird-filled day we will eventually arrive at Chichen Itza for an overnight stay.

    Day 4     Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza - Uxmal
    Mayan TempleThe most famous Mayan ruin complex of Chichen Itza provides the setting for our birding today and offers a perfect mix of nature and culture where the surrounding woodland provides another taste of the Yucatan’s distinctive avifauna. This is a popular tourist attraction but most visitors stick to the main buildings such as the majestic El Castillo or the Observatorio and is the remains of one of the most complex of all late Classic Mayan ceremonial centres. After a little sightseeing distraction we’ll be more interested in the hidden trails which offer great birding at various dry thorn and humid forest habitats. We will particularly key in on a good selection of species such as Black-throated Bobwhite, Hook-billed Kite, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Green-breasted Mango, Canivet’s Emerald, Collared Aracari, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Violaceous Trogon, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Greenish Elaenia, Rose-throated Becard, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow, White-bellied Wren, Cave Swallow, Yellow-green Vireo, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Yellow-winged Tanager, Green and Yucatán Jay, Blue Bunting, Orange Oriole and Olive Sparrow. Night at Uxmal.  

    Days 5 - 6    Uxmal - Palenque 
    Russet-crowned MotmotThe beautiful Mayan ruins of Uxmal in the middle of the thorn forest offer a nice variety of Yucatan species including Canivet’s Emerald, Yucatan Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, Grey-throated Chat, Blue Bunting and White-browed Wren. The tracks into the forest around the archaeological area are also good for Grey and Crane Hawks, Collared Forest-Falcon, Aztec Parakeet, Lineated Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Mangrove Vireo, Scrub Euphonia, Black-headed Saltator and Yellow-billed Cacique. Later on we begin our journey south to Palenque for an overnight stay which will give us further opportunities to stop beside the vast marshes along the way. We have a full day around the Mayan ruins of Palenque where there are remnant patches of Atlantic-slope lowland rainforest around the attractive ruins which is home to a vast array of interesting species including Great and Slaty-breasted Tinamous, Double-toothed Kite, White Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Black Hawk-eagle, Laughing Falcon, Bat Falcon, Barred & Collared Forest-Falcons, Plain Chachalaca, Crested, Mottled & Black-and-white Owls, Central American Pygmy-owl, Spotted Wood-quail, Short-billed Pigeon, Blue Ground-dove, Grey-headed Dove, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Brown-hooded, White-crowned, White-fronted and Red-lored Parrots, Emerald Toucanet, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked, Smoky-brown and Chestnut-coloured Woodpeckers, Long-tailed & Striped Hermits, Violet Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin,  Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Long-billed Starthroat, White-bellied Emerald, Black-headed, Collared & Slaty-tailed Trogons, Blue-crowned & possibly Tody Motmots, White-necked Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Plain Xenops, Tawny-winged, Olivaceous, Wedge-billed, Barred, Ivory-billed & Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Great and Barred Antshrikes, Dot-winged Antwren, Dusky Antbird, Mexican Antthrush, Scaled Antpitta, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Sepia-capped and Sulphur-rumped Flycatchers, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Bright-rumped Attila, Thrush-like Mourner, White-breasted Wood-wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Green Shrike-vireo, Grey-collared Becard, Black-crowned Tityra, Rufous Piha, White-collared Manakin, Crimson-collared, Scarlet-rumped and Grey-headed Tanagers, Olive-backed Euphonia, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Black-headed Saltator, Orange-billed Sparrow, Variable Seedeater, Giant Cowbird, Black-cowled Oriole, Yellow-billed Cacique, and Chestnut-headed Oropendola. Night at Yaxchilan.

    Day 7    Yaxchilan - Usumacinta River
    Early this morning we will take a boat ride on the Usumacinta River to Yaxchilan, to go birding in the jungle among the ruins which is the most reliable site for Scarlet Macaw and King Vulture in Mexico. These remote ruins are situated along the left bank of the Usumacinta River and can only be reached by boat from Frontera Corozal on the Guatemalan border. The site is surrounded by a fine rainforest which can be very rewarding in the early morning before the tourists arrive. Here we will specifically look for Crested Guan, Great Curassow, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Mexican Antthrush, Yellow-winged Tanager, Black-throated Shrike-Tanager and Green-backed Sparrow. This fine site also has many other possibilities including Great and Slaty-breasted Tinamous, White Hawk, Bat Falcon, Barred Forest-Falcons, Spotted Wood-quail, Collared Plover, Short-billed Pigeon, Ruddy Quail-dove, Aztec Parakeet, Brown-hooded and Red-lored Parrots, Crested and Mottled Owls, Long-tailed Hermit, Stripe-tailed Hummingbird, Long-billed Starthroat, Violaceous and Slaty-tailed Trogon, Tody Motmot, White-whiskered Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Emerald Toucanet, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Black-cheeked, Chestnut-coloured and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, Plain Xenops, Olivaceous, Wedge-billed and Barred Woodcreepers, Dusky Antbird, Yellow-bellied Tyrannulet, Greenish and Yellow-bellied Elaenias, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed, Social, Ochre-bellied and Royal Flycatchers, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Black-crowned Tityra, Rufous Piha, Red-capped Manakin, Long-billed Gnatwren, Yellow-green Vireo, Lesser Greenlet, Green Shrike-Vireo, Golden-hooded and Blue-grey, Tanagers, Yellow-throated Euphonia, Red-throated Ant-tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Blue-black Grosbeak, Orange-billed Sparrow, White-collared Seedeater, Rusty Sparrow, Yellow-tailed Oriole, and Montezuma Oropendola. Later in the afternoon we will travel back to Palenque for an overnight stay.
    Day 8   Palenque - Chiapa de Corso
    After a short morning birding at Palenque we travel to Chiapa de Corso, stopping en-route at the Misol-Ha waterfall and areas around San Cristobal. The lovely city of San Cristóbal is surrounded by high mountains covered with pine-oak forests and is home to such specialties as Amethyst-throated and Garnet-throated Hummingbird, Pine Flycatcher, Unicolored Jay, Rufous-browed Wren, Brown-backed Solitaire, Blue-and-white Mockingbird and the enigmatic Pink-headed Warbler, but we will require a good deal of luck to find such rarities as Blue-throated Motmot, Black-throated Jay or White-naped Brushfinch. Throughout the day we will have chances of a number of other localised species such as Singing Quail, Bearded Screech-Owl, Guatemalan Flicker, Black-capped Swallow, Crescent-chested Warbler, Cinnamon-bellied Flowerpiercer and Black-headed Siskin. This mountainous area is also home to Band-tailed Pigeon, Whiskered Screech-owl, Unspotted Saw-whet Owl, Green Violet-ear, White-eared and Magnificent Hummingbirds, Mountain Trogon, Acorn Woodpecker, Spot-crowned Woodcreeper, Couch’s Kingbird, Steller’s Jay, Band-backed Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Ruddy-capped Nightingale-thrush, Rufous-collared Thrush, Grey Silky-Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, Rufous-capped and Golden-browed Warblers, Blue-hooded Euphonia, Common Bush-tanager, Spotted Towhee, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Chiapas Junco, and bothYellow-backed & Bullock’s Orioles.
    Night at Chiapa de Corso.

    Day 9    Sumidero Canyon - Palenque - Usumacinta Marshes
    This morning we will visit the spectacular Sumidero Canyon along the Grijalva River, where we will begin our birding along the rim of the gorge which has several overlooks. The habitat is comprised of subtropical Oak forests and thorn-scrub woodland and holds a fascinating selection of species such as Thicket Tinamou, Singing Quail, Maroon-chested Ground-dove, Pheasant Cuckoo, Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Buff-collared Nightjar, Green Parakeet, Lesser Roadrunner, Greater Swallow-tailed Swift, Canivet’s and White-bellied Emerald, Azure-crowned, Berylline and Green-fronted Hummingbirds, Slender Sheartail, Plain-capped Starthroat, Emerald Toucanet, Golden-olive and Lineated Woodpecker, Olivaceous and Ivory-billed Woodcreepers, Violaceous and Collared Trogons, Russet-crowned Motmot, Vaux’s Swift, Greenish Elaenia, Belted and Flammulated Flycatchers, Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush, White-throated Thrush, Band-backed, Canyon, Banded and Plain Wrens, Grey-collared Becard, Ridgeway’s Rough-winged Swallow, Blue-and-white Mockingbird, Fan-tailed and Rufous-capped Warblers, Yellow-throated and Blue-hooded Euphonias, Red-breasted Chat, Yellow-winged Tanager, Yellow Grosbeak, Botteri’s and Rusty Sparrows, Varied Bunting, Blue Seedeater, and Black-vented, Bar-winged and Streak-backed Orioles. In the afternoon we will return to Palenque for an overnight stay.

    Day 10    Usumacinta Marshes - Calakmul
    White IbisAn early start will see us birding the nearby Usumacinta Marshes, a huge area of wetlands and wooded savannas along the Usumacinta River and its tributaries where we can find Pinnated Bittern, Boat-billed Heron, Jabiru, Masked Duck, Aplomado Falcon, Black-collared Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Snail Kite, White-tailed and  Crane Hawks, Ruddy Crake, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Double-striped Thick-knee, Collared Plover, Black Skimmer, Northern Potoo, Pale-breasted Ground-dove, Aztec Parakeet, Red-lored and Yellow-headed Parrots, Striped Cuckoo,  Azure-crowned Hummingbird, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, Barred Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Martin, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Thick-billed Seedfinch, Black-cowled Oriole and Grassland Yellow-Finch. In the late afternoon we will travel to Calakmul for an overnight stay.

    Day 11    Calakmul Biosphere Reserve - Caribbean Coast 
    Another early start will be needed to make the most of the remote Calakmul Biosphere Reserve where huge tracts of pristine forest surround the accessible Mayan ruins. Climbing the impressive ruins gives a great view over the forest canopy where you can view the sea of trees stretching almost to the horizon in all directions, with the Mayan ruins of El Mirador in Guatemala just visible away to the south. The road leading to the ruins is one of the best places to find Ocellated Turkey, Great Curassow and Mexican Antthrush and we’ll spend plenty of time trying to catch up with these. Regular sightings here include King Vulture, Laughing Falcon, Bat Falcon, Collared Forest-Falcon, Crested Guan, Yucatan Parrot, Yucatan Nightjar, Caribbean Dove, Ruddy Quail-dove, Black-and-white Owl, Green-breasted Mango, Buff-breasted Hummingbird, Violaceous Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Keel-billed Toucan, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Bentbill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Dusky-capped and Royal Flycatchers, Bright-rumped Attila, Yucatan Flycatcher, Yucatan Jay, White-browed and White-bellied Wrens, Black Catbird, Long-billed Gnatwren, Tawny-crowned and Lesser Greenlets, Mangrove Vireo, Grey-throated Chat, Yellow-winged and Rose-throated Tanagers, Black-throated Shrike-tanager, Red-crowned and Red-throated Ant-Tanagers, Blue Bunting and Orange Oriole. There are also many good mammals and butterfly species at the site including Central American Spider Monkey and Yucatan Howler which goes to prove the richness of habitat to be found here. In the late afternoon we travel to the Caribbean Coast and spend the night at Felipe Puerto Carillo.

    Day 12     Felipe Carillo Road - Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
    Ocellated TurkeyWe will bird several areas along the Felipe Carillo Road and in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve today, primarily checking some spots for any species we may have missed so far, maybe Yucatan Poorwill, Yucatan Nightjar, Grey-throated Chat or Black Catbird. Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is a huge protected area comprising a variety of habitats including tropical semi-deciduous forests, mangroves, fantastic lagoons and sandy beaches. Once again, birds are numerous here and amongst many possibilities there are King Vulture, Ocellated Turkey, Singing Quail, Yucatan Bobwhite, Crane Hawk, Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagles, Mottled Owl, Scaled Pigeon, Blue Ground-dove, White-bellied Emerald, Wedge-tailed Sabrewing, Yucatan Woodpecker, Violaceous Trogon, Smoky-brown, Golden-olive, Chestnut-coloured, Lineated and Pale-billed Woodpeckers, White-necked Puffbird, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Plain Xenops, Tawny-winged, Ruddy, Olivaceous and Barred Woodcreepers, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Mexican Antthrush, Stub-tailed Spadebill, Caribbean Elaenia, Great-crested and Yucatan Flycatchers, Grey-collared Becard, Ridgway’s Rough-winged Swallow, Golden-crowned Warbler, Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-browed Wren, Yellow-winged Tanager, Blue Bunting, White-collared Seedeater and Green-backed Sparrow. Night at Playa del Carmen.

    Day 13     Cozumel Island
    We have a full day on Cozumel Island which has an interesting mix of Caribbean, Yucatán Peninsula, and island-endemic birds. Here we will be looking for endemics such as Cozumel Emerald, Cozumel Wren and Cozumel Vireo. There are a number of endemic subspecies to add interest such as Roadside Hawk, Yucatan Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Bright-rumped Attila, Yucatan Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black Catbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Bananaquit, Golden (Yellow) Warbler, Western Spindalis (Stripe-headed Tanager), Rose-throated Tanager, Yellow-faced Grassquit and Northern Cardinal. Wintering migrants include Palm, Prairie, Cape May, Yellow-throated and Swainson’s Warblers. Night at Playa del Carmen. 

    Day 14     Puerto Morelos - End of Tour  (Tuesday 15th November)
    We can spend the morning birding in the local area amongst tropical forest and mangroves looking for overwintering species such as Least Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Grey Catbird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Black-throated Blue, Palm and Hooded Warblers and Painted Bunting, as well as keying in on any other species still missing from our lists. And in the afternoon we have to transfer to Cancun airport for an overnight flight back home, arriving Day 15 (Weds 16th November).

    Leaders: Nick Bray and Gabor Orban.

    Ground Price:  £2750.00 - Cancun/Cancun

    Airfare:  £650.00 (Approx) - UK/UK

    Zoothera tour prices explained
    Single supplement: £375.00           Deposit:  £400.00

    Group size:  Minimum for tour to go ahead 6 and maximum of 12 with 2 leaders.

    Included in cost: Accommodation in twin en-suite rooms, all meals including picnic lunches, bottled water, all ground transport including boat ride, all park entrance fees, and services of leaders. 

    Not included: International flight, insurance, drinks, tips, airport departure tax, optional tips for the local guides and items of a personal nature.

    Accommodation: All hotels/lodges are of a good standard with en-suite facilities. We endeavour to stay in the very best accommodation available closest to the birding sites.

    Tour Code:  This is a standard birding tour with regular/easy birding walks along roads and well marked trails. Some long drives are necessary between birding sites but we have a comfortable coach to relax in. The weather is generally warm and hot at this time of year, but a little humid in the lowlands and there is an outside possibility of some showers.are of a good standard with en-suite facilities.

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